Florida’s fall colors are a little different than those up north. While others are watching the last colorful leaves of
Florida’s fall colors are a little different than those up north. While others are watching the last colorful leaves of autumn drift away in the stiff breezes, those same winds are shaking the blooms of Winter Cassia to a golden frenzy.
Winter Cassia, sometimes called Christmas Cassia, can be grown in zones 9 – 11, and is an excellent host plant for bright yellow sulphur butterflies. In fact, in the fall, the green caterpillars begin consuming the golden flowers along with the leaves, and turn a brilliant yellow themselves!
This shrub can get very large in areas without freezes, but can easily be pruned in winter after the blooms are gone to keep it in check. In areas that experience occasional freezes, Christmas Cassia will die back but return and grow vigorously when warmer weather returns. The blooms of Winter Cassia last about 6 weeks, after which it returns to being a lovely leafy green shrub that requires little care. They’re especially nice when planted with Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), which puts on gorgeous purple seed spikes in the fall and makes an excellent combination of southern fall color.
The fall-blooming shrub sold as Winter Cassia can be one of several cassia species. Cassia bicapsularis syn. Senna bicapsularis, the most commonly sold, is not native to the U.S., but is generally considered non-invasive. Be cautious of confusing it with Senna pendula var. glabrata, which looks very similar but has invasive tendencies in some areas. (Learn more here.) You can also seek out native cassias, such as Privet Cassia (Senna Lingustrina), to avoid potential problems.